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Ilex opaca 'Stewart's Silver Crown': 'Stewart's Silver Crown' American Holly

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, and Deborah R. Hilbert


A popular landscape plant since the beginning of American history, this broad-leafed evergreen has served a variety of uses through the years. The American Indians used preserved holly berries as decorative buttons, which were much sought after by other tribes who bartered for them. The wood has been used for making canes, scroll work and furniture, and has even been substituted for ebony in inlay work when stained black.

Figure 1. Middle-aged Ilex opaca 'Stewart's Silver Crown': 'Stewart's Silver Crown' American Holly
Figure 1. Middle-aged Ilex opaca 'Stewart's Silver Crown': 'Stewart's Silver Crown' American holly. 
Credit: UF/IFAS 


General Information

Scientific name: Ilex opaca

Pronunciation: EYE-lecks oh-PAY-kuh

Common name(s): 'Stewart's Silver Crown' American holly

Family: Aquifoliaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 6A through 9B (Figure 2)

Origin: native to North America

Invasive potential: native cultivar

Uses: urban tolerant; street without sidewalk; specimen; hedge; reclamation; screen; parking lot island 100–200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); highway median; Bonsai

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2. Range. 
Credit: UF/IFAS 



Height: 15 to 25 feet

Spread: 15 to 25 feet

Crown uniformity: symmetrical

Crown shape: pyramidal

Crown density: dense

Growth rate: slow

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate (Figure 3)

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: pectinate, entire, spiny

Leaf shape: elliptic (oval), lanceolate

Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen

Leaf blade length: less than 2 inches, 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: variegated

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Foliage
Figure 3. Foliage. 
Credit: UF/IFAS 



Flower color: green, white/cream/gray

Flower characteristics: not showy


Fruit shape: round

Fruit length: less than 0.5 inch

Fruit covering: fleshy

Fruit color: red

Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; thorns

Pruning requirement: little required

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: green, brown

Current year twig thickness: medium

Wood specific gravity: 0.61


Light requirement: full sun, partial sun or partial shade, shade tolerant

Soil tolerances: sand; loam; clay; acidic; slightly alkaline; well-drained; occasionally wet

Drought tolerance: high

Aerosol salt tolerance: high


Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: yes

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

This cultivar of American holly is a beautifully shaped tree, with a symmetrical, dense, wide pyramidal form. The spiny, dull green leaves are edged in white and are accented with clusters of red berries which persist throughout the fall and winter. Male and female flowers appear on separate trees and trees of both sexes must be located in the same neighborhood to ensure production of berries on the female plants. American holly is ideal for use as a street tree (with lower branches removed), framing tree, specimen, barrier planting or screen. Roots are shallow and finely branched, and rarely invasive due to their great number and relatively small diameter. This native tree is ideal for naturalizing on moist, slightly acid soils, and the fruit is very attractive to wildlife, serving as an excellent food source. A 25-foot-tall tree can be about 20-feet wide in 40 or 50 years.

Growing well in full sun to partial shade, American holly should be located on fertile, well-drained but moist, slightly acid soils below 6.5 pH. Berry production is highest in full sun on female trees. American holly foliage thins during drought, but insect and disease infestations are usually minimal.

See the species for other cultivars.

Propagation is by cuttings or grafting.


Holly leaf miner larvae mines out the leaf middle leaving yellow or brown trails.

Scales of various types may infest holly.

Spider mites cause discoloration and speckling of holly foliage.


Tar spot may occasionally cause small yellow spots on the leaves in early summer. Eventually the spots turn reddish brown with narrow yellow borders. Leaves may not drop prematurely but the infected areas drop out leaving holes in the leaves. Gather up and destroy badly infected leaves.

Many different fungi cause leaf spots on holly. Reduce the injury caused by leaf spots by keeping trees healthy. Dispose of diseased leaves.

Cankers caused by several different fungi lead to sunken areas on stems and plant dieback. Keep trees healthy and prune out infected branches.

Spine spot is small gray or yellow spots with purple margins and is caused by spines of one leaf puncturing an adjacent leaf.

Chlorosis symptoms are light green or yellowish leaves with darker green veins. This problem is often due to a high pH leading to iron deficiency. Use acidifying fertilizers and sulfur to bring down the pH. Sprays of iron chelate will green up plants.

In northern climates, Hollies sometimes scorch during the late winter due to rapid and wide temperature fluctuations. Shade plants during the winter to prevent the problem.

Purple blotches on the leaves are caused by some environmental factor such as nutrient deficiencies, drought, and winter injury.

Black root rot can be damaging.

Publication #ENH466

Release Date:April 9, 2024

Related Collections

Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is ENH466, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and March 2024. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor, arboriculture; and Deborah R. Hilbert, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Department of Environmental Horticulture; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Michael Andreu
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